From snow-capped peaks to lush rainforests to stunning beaches, it would be impossible to visit Olympic National Park without falling in love with it. Our love for this park has made us realize what an impact we as humans can have on environments like Olympic. Primeval temperature rainforests that once stretched from Oregon to Alaska have long since disappeared in most places, but here on the Olympic Peninsula, these magnificent giants still live in the Quinault, Queets, Hoh and Bogachiel valleys. We want to help you see the beauty of this place while minimizing your environmental footprint. We’ve come up with an amazing eco-friendly vacation itinerary that takes you from oyster beds to organic farms, the waters of Puget Sound to the park’s temperate rainforests, all the while traveling mindfully and more sustainably.
Before you start, consider your mode of transportation. One of our favorite ways to lower your carbon footprint on your next trip to Olympic National Park is to visit in an electric vehicle. Check out our guide to all the charging stations in and around the park.
Day 1: Big Trees, Local Food and Farm Stay
Hike an Old-Growth Forest
Olympic National Park encompasses the center of the Olympic Peninsula, along with a few sections along the western coast, so as you drive the Hwy. 101 loop around the peninsula, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get into the park. Your first stop? Staircase Rapids Loop near Hoodsport. This easy 2.1-mile hike is a great introduction to one of the park’s many ecosystems: a lowland, old-growth forest. Make sure to pack your reusable water bottle for hiking. With more than 3 million annual visitors on average, single-use plastic water bottles become a major issue. Single-use plastic bottles crowd landfills and can find their way into the oceans from the park’s many rivers. Do your part in keeping Olympic green by refilling your reusable bottle.
Lunch on Fresh Oysters
Ready for lunch? Stop in to Hamma Hamma Oyster Saloon and Farm (hamahamaoysters.com) along Hwy. 101 in Lilliwaup, just north of the Hoodsport exit for the Staircase Rapids Loop Hike, for incredible shellfish. Take a seat in the Oyster Saloon which serves a partial menu on weekdays and a full menu Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are recommended on the weekends.
Farmed oysters, especially enjoyed right at the source, have very little environmental impact, according to National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/how-tourism-is-helping-save-oyster-populations). Oysters filter the water they grow in, removing harmful pollutants like nitrogen, making for healthier oceans. Farmed oysters also help seed wild populations without harming them, unlike other farmed seafood species. Wild oysters, in turn, help prevent erosion and do more filtering work. Recycled oyster shells thrown back into the water can boost calcium levels, helping to buffer acidity and counteract CO2. Hamma Hamma also does forestry work on their property upstream. You better order another dozen.
Don’t miss stopping by the Farm Store on site where you’ll find fresh oysters and clams, house-smoked seafood and a variety of other locally produced goodies from ice cream to cheeses to grass-fed beef.
Sip a Local Cider for Happy Hour
Forty miles north in Chimacum, stop in to Finnriver Farm and Cidery (www.finnriver.com) to enjoy hard ciders produced on site from the farm’s organic fields and orchards. Join an Orchard Tour & Cider Tasting on summer weekends to sample while strolling the farm grounds and learning about all the innovative things the cidery is doing to be more sustainable from hosting the North Olympic Salmon Coalition’s Native Plant nursery (nosc.org) to using geese to maintain the orchard, to the on-site research farm helping create more resilient organic seeds.
After touring the farm, order a pint of your favorite cider and enjoy live music on the beautiful patio. If you haven’t gotten your oyster fill yet, Hamma Hamma serves up their beloved bivalves here as well. There’s also wood-fired pizza and a farm store on site.
Stay on an Environmentally-Friendly Farm
Book the Big Cedars Lodge at RainCoast Farms on AirBnb (www.airbnb.com/rooms/24151145) outside Chimacum for a magical stay on a 17-acre sustainable farm, vineyard and orchard. Enjoy your morning coffee overlooking pinot noir and champagne grapes, apple, pear and plum trees and blackberry bushes. All produce is grown pesticide and herbicide free.
Day 2: Marine Life and a GreenLeader Stay
Watch Whales with a Naturalist
A member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, Puget Sound Express (www.pugetsoundexpress.com) is committed to responsible wildlife viewing, education and conservation. From Port Townsend, 10 miles north of Chimacum, head out on a four-hour guaranteed whale watching tour. A marine naturalist on board will help you learn more about the waters of Puget Sound and the wildlife you’ll encounter like orcas, humpback whales, grey whales, minke whales, bald eagles, harbor seals and more. Make sure to place your lunch order with your ticket purchase and enjoy a sandwich on the boat.
Learn More About Pacific Marine Life
Still curious about the marine wildlife that calls the Puget Sound home? Head to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center at Fort Worden State Park (ptmsc.org). This education and science organization is dedicated to understanding and conserving the waters and shoreline surrounding Port Townsend. You’ll find touch tanks, microscopes, a hydrophone, an orca skeleton, low-tide walks and more information on how to not just go green, but to take your passion for sustainability to the next level by going “blue.”
Stay at GreenLeader Gold Level Property on Lake Crescent
As you continue traveling west on Hwy. 101, don’t miss stopping at the Olympic National Park Visitors Center in Port Angeles, or driving up Hurricane Ridge Road in the park to see stunning alpine peaks. Looking for an evening hike? Try the 3.2-mile roundtrip Hurricane Hill Trail which has incredible wildflowers in the summer.
When it’s time for bed, head to the beautiful Lake Crescent Lodge (www.olympicnationalparks.com/lodging/lake-crescent-lodge/) on the shores of Lake Crescent inside the park, along Hwy. 101 west of the turn off for Hurricane Ridge Road. Named a TripAdvisor GreenLeader Gold Level property and certified by the ISO 14001 (an environmental management certification), this lodge built in 1915 is now leading the way in sustainability on the Olympic Peninsula.
You’ll have a variety of accommodation options to choose from ranging from historic rooms in the original lodge to cabins to more modern hotel rooms. Have dinner in the dining room, which sources local food and beverages. Other sustainability features include low-flow plumbing, compost and recycling programs and innovative laundry and supply programs to minimize waste. A bonus? You’ll receive a $15 gift certificate if you drive your hybrid, alternative fuel or electric vehicle to your stay at the lodge.
Don’t miss grabbing a drink from the tap-only bar which helps reduce waste and enjoying it in an Adirondack chair outside as you watch the sunset over the lake.
Day 3: A Lake, Waterfall and Ocean Beach
Paddle Lake Crescent
Wake up early to get the stillest waters and explore Lake Crescent via paddle. Rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard from the front desk or join a guided scenic kayak trip to learn about the history and ecology of the lake, all under your own power. No fossil fuels needed.
Hike to a Triple Waterfall
As you continue west on Hwy. 101 there’s lots of opportunities to get into the park. Take Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, just west of the turnoff for Lake Crescent Lodge, to hike the easy 1.6-mile roundtrip trail to Sol Duc Falls to experience the beauty of a temperate rainforest.
Whatever trail you choose be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles to help keep the park beautiful for wildlife, plants and other visitors. One of the most important principles to practice in Olympic? Packing out what you pack in. A single tissue or a stray corner of a granola bar wrapper might not seem like that big of a deal, but when you magnify your piece or two of trash by more than 3 million visitors, it suddenly becomes a huge amount of litter on the trails which affects the entire ecosystem and the oceans this ecosystem drains into. Pack out all of your trash, including food scraps like fruit peels.
Sleep next to the Pacific Ocean
You just might get the best night’s sleep of your entire life at Kalaloch Lodge, tucked between the Pacific Ocean and dense evergreen forests inside the park. Something to help you sleep even better? Knowing that Kalaloch Lodge is committed to sustainability. With ambitious goals related to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste you’ll find energy efficient appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures and recycling and composting initiatives on site. Kalaloch Lodge is on track to diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2024 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions 40% between 2019 and 2020. Stay in a lodge room or cabin with views of the ocean and dine at the Creekside Restaurant, which sources 60% of all its ingredients within 150 miles.
More Ways to Have a Sustainable Vacation to Olympic National Park
Want to extend your vacation and get into the heart of Olympic National Park? Book a guided backpacking trip with Lasting Adventures (lastingadventures.com). This non-profit guiding organization helps introduce kids to the wilderness, laying the foundation for the next generation to become better stewards of parks like Olympic and Yosemite. Your trip fee helps support the nearly 25% of participants who join their trips via scholarship. Choose from destinations like the Hoh Rainforest, the Ozette Coast and the Seven Lakes basin.
Another smart way to help reduce your carbon footprint on your road trip is by purchasing carbon offsets. These offsets help sequester or avoid carbon via various projects. We love the Protect Our Winters carbon calculator and offset purchase tool (protectourwinters.org/cost-of-carbon/). It’s user-friendly to calculate the footprint of your vacation and you can choose which programs you want to support with your offset purchase from forest management to emissions reduction to methane recovery.